If it quacks like a duck … it must be a turtle

If it quacks like a duck … it must be a turtle (Ice Age Now, Aug 22, 2014):

“Why We’re Definitely Not Headed for Another Ice Age.”

When I saw that headline in Newsweek, I thought, do they know something that I don’t? But once I read the article, it left me wondering how in the world they came to that conclusion.

It reminds me of the great retort by paleontologist Robert Bakker to those who did not agree with his belief that many kinds of dinosaurs were birds.

“There are still a few of my colleagues who think if it walks like a duck, breathes like a duck and grows like a duck, it must be a turtle,” said Bakker.

Let’s see if this Newsweek article is a duck or a turtle.

It starts out by admitting that “there are currently very low levels of activity on the sun – the lowest in more than 100 years – and they are likely to fall further.”

So far so good. I agree.

Then the article reminds us of the “crippling winters” between 2008 and 2010 that closed airports and paralyzed transport systems in western Europe and the eastern United States. (Interestingly, it fails to mention the record cold and snow this past winter in the United States, nor the record cold in the U.S. Midwest this summer.)

The article then describes the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity almost stopped. It even discloses that the Maunder Minimum coincided with a period of bitter winters known as “the little ice age.”

This is all true.

And finally, the article quotes Mike Lockwood, Professor of Space Environment Physics at Reading University:

“When you look at the overall trend of solar magnetic fields and things, then you see that we’ve now had three cycles where every (solar) maximum has got weaker, every minimum has got deeper, and there’s no reason not to expect that trend to continue. It’s not a negligible probability that we go into a Maunder Minimum.”

Great! This is still good information.

So what do we have here?

If a lack of sunspots correlated with the last little ice age, and if we now have the lowest sunspot activity in more than 100 years (and still dropping), and if the U.S. and Europe have recently  endured the coldest, snowiest winters on record, and if we have the “not negligible probability” of descending into a Maunder Minimum, mightn’t we come to the conclusion that we’re heading into a little ice age?

Uh, no.

Look out! Here comes the turtle. Here comes the legerdemain.

“The sun’s cycles, however inactive they become, will not save the world from global warming,” the article asserts. “A slight, temporary change in the sun’s activity cannot mitigate many years of suffocating emissions, whatever the deniers would have us believe.”

Oh, those nasty deniers.

How did we suddenly move from a Maunder Minimum to global warming?

Because researchers say so. Which researchers? Researchers who crunched their numbers through the UK Met Office’s “sophisticated climate models.”

Forget the facts. Forget what we can see with our very own eyes. Instead, lets bury our heads in our models (computer-generated guesses).

Have these Met Office models been programmed to overestimate the effects of CO2? We don’t know.

Have these Met Office models been programmed to underestimate the effects of solar activity? We don’t know.

Have  these Met Office models been programmed to estimate the effects of well-known ice-age cycles? We don’t know.

Remember that acronym GIGO (Garbage in, garbage out)?

If it looks like garbage, and smells like garbage, and tastes like garbage, well, maybe it’s garbage.

What about Russian astrophysicist Habibullo Abdussamatov’s contention that we’re headed into a little ice age?  No mention of him.

What about British astrophysicist Piers Corbyn’s contention that we’re now headed into a little ice age?  No mention of him.

What about American climatologist Cliff Harris’s contention that we’re now headed into an ice age?  No mention of him.

What about American climate scientist Don Easterbrook’s contention that we’re now headed into an ice age? No mention of him.

I’ll stick to my guns. I think we definitely are headed into another ice age.

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